Saw palmetto is an ingredient used in herbal remedies believed to have an effect on testosterone levels. But what conditions can it be used for safe treatment, and does it work?
Remedies that contain saw palmetto alone, or combined with other herbs, are commonly sold in the USA and in Europe. As with all herbal remedies, it’s necessary to consider what evidence exists to support saw palmetto ‘s health and efficacy.
In this article we discuss the uses, dosage, and side effects of using treatments containing extract from the saw palmetto.
What is saw palmetto
Saw palmetto is a type of palm tree growing in the warm climate on the U.S. southeast coast.
Saw palmetto treatments include an extract obtained from the tree’s berries. Traditionally, Seminole tribe Native Americans eat berries from the saw palmetto tree to ease urinary and reproductive problems, among other ailments.
Currently, extract of the saw palmetto is available in tablet, liquid and tea form. This is commonly consumed in the US as an alternative treatment for treating symptoms caused by reduced levels of testosterone.
Uses of saw palmetto
The palmetto saw has a number of applications. Many point to the effect on testosterone it is thought to have.
Higher testosterone levels cause a number of problems that can be controlled by stabilizing the hormone ‘s levels.
Many may believe that the palmetto also stops the loss of testosterone. When testosterone is unable to break down naturally, the hormone levels in the body increase.
Some people are taking saw palmetto to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia ( BPH), which is a non-cancerous prostate gland enlargement.
In the male reproductive system the prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland. As a man ages, and his testosterone levels decline, size changes are very normal for the prostate gland.
Some people may experience BPH in which the prostate grows bigger than it should. The prostate may exert pressure on the urethra when this occurs, causing discomfort and other symptoms. These include:
- frequent urination
- problems starting or maintaining urination
- the need to get up in the night to urinate
Since saw palmetto is thought to raise testosterone levels, people with BPH may want to take saw palmetto since they think it will shrink the prostate and relieve urinary symptoms.
Since saw palmetto tends to have an effect on male hormone levels, it may also help to lower the growth of prostate cancer cells.
For this reason, in addition to traditional therapy, some people who have prostate cancer also take additional saw palmetto supplements.
Anyone who has prostate cancer problems should still talk to a doctor. Before trying an alternative treatment, it is necessary to look for a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Testosterone plays a part in sex desire for men and women alike. This is associated with fertility, as it influences both sperm and egg production.
People may be taking saw palmetto as such in an effort to increase their testosterone levels. This can help them feel an increased libido or a higher sex drive.
When people age, losing some of their hair is a natural thing to them. This natural cycle is attributable to a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a by-product of the testosterone breakdown.
People suffering hair loss may seek to take saw palmetto to boost their testosterone levels and slow the progression of hair loss.
People may also take saw palmetto for a range of other ailments, including:
- coughs, colds, and sore throats
- sleeping troubles
Many people use herbal remedies which are based on anecdotal evidence, such as saw palmetto.
Nevertheless, knowing the science behind the myths and finding what evidence exists to support the protection and efficacy of saw palmetto is beneficial.
Shrinking the prostate
Historically , research have been inconclusive as to whether BPH may provide significant relief from the saw palmetto. A 2000 study found that the effects of sighted palmetto on the symptoms of BPH were no different from those of a placebo.
However, there has been some more recent evidence to indicate otherwise. A pilot study in 2013 showed that saw palmetto induces a small decrease in BPH symptoms and associated sexual dysfunction.
However, people should remember that the symptom change in the 2013 study was small, and less than 100 participants were involved in the research.
Preventing cancerous cells
A 2007 research indicates that saw palmetto may be helpful in treating prostate cancer, as it tended to delay the growth of infected cells.
Yet another study has shown that taking saw palmetto does not significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
We need more studies before saw palmetto can be considered a viable means of treating or preventing prostate cancer.
A 2014 study found a supplement containing saw palmetto to have raised testosterone levels. The researchers, however, noted that more study would be required to determine the role of saw palmetto in effective control of testosterone.
Experts can not therefore tell with confidence that palmetto stabilizes the levels of testosterone
Dosage and interactions
As with any remedy, when taking saw palmetto, it is necessary to verify the prescribed dosage on the packet.
If you first take saw palmetto, it is a good idea to talk with a doctor. A doctor can check that saw palmetto along with established medicine is safe to take.
As saw palmetto can interfere with other hormones, it should not be taken by the women taking the birth control pill.
This can also delay blood clotting, and people taking anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications, such as aspirin, should also avoid the presence of saw palmetto.
Before using saw palmetto products, you should consult with a doctor to make sure they are healthy.
Saw palmetto is known to have some mild side effects, including:
The American Pregnancy Association recommends women not to take saw palmetto during pregnancy or breast-feeding, as it serves as a hormone. People who suggest taking a herb or supplement during pregnancy should first discuss it with their doctor.
Additional work is required to determine whether saw palmetto is an effective treatment for prostate-related conditions.
Although there is some evidence to support the fact that saw palmetto could have a positive impact, it was not well investigated the possible side effects.
While the latest evidence is inconclusive, it does not contradict the experience of people who have found saw palmetto helpful. Taken correctly, it may be worth attempting as an alternative therapy.